Observation Deck: New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the more intriguing subplots from the New England Patriots' 42-35 preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles was how the team employed its quarterbacks.

Tom Brady started and played the first two series for a total of 23 snaps (including penalties), before rookie Jimmy Garoppolo relieved him and played the final five drives of the first half (30 snaps, including penalties). Four-year veteran Ryan Mallett then played the entire second half.

The insertion of Garoppolo over Mallett figures to spark speculation as to the depth chart behind Brady. Could Garoppolo really be threatening Mallett for the No. 2 role? Or was this just a case of the Patriots wanting to see Garoppolo against better competition?

Our educated guess is the latter, and Garoppolo passed the test from this view. Brady, as one would expect, also played well. So did Mallett.

Overall, this was a good night for Patriots quarterbacks.

Here are some other thoughts on the game:

  • With so many penalty flags thrown, it is timely to revisit comments from referee John Parry from Tuesday. Here's hoping this doesn't carry over into the regular season, because the high total of flags makes it an unappealing game to watch at times.

  • The Patriots are taking a long look at undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler, who started opposite Darrelle Revis. Butler shined in the preseason opener, and while he wasn't tested at the same rate in this game, he doesn't seem to be out of place. He played both the right and left side and had one of the plays of the game -- a forced fumble in the second half that he also recovered.

  • Running back Stevan Ridley has hard-to-miss talent, but his issue in recent years has been ball security. It might have been part of his planned workload (16 snaps played), or it could have been a replay of what unfolded in 2013, but Ridley didn't see the field after a second-quarter fumble. It was a close play, and we'll be interested to see it again to determine if it was indeed a fumble. Rookie James White played more snaps than any running back in the first half (26 snaps).

  • Center and right guard are the top competitions to monitor along the Patriots' offensive line. Dan Connolly started at center and split time with incumbent Ryan Wendell, while rookie Bryan Stork remains sidelined with an injury. Meanwhile, first-year player Jordan Devey, who spent last year on the practice squad, drew the start at right guard and has been flying under the radar a bit. The Patriots obviously want to take a longer look at him (he also started the preseason opener).

  • The safety spot next to Devin McCourty remains an open competition, and this game highlighted a different wrinkle to consider with cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan getting time at safety. This was something that came up in practice during the week, and perhaps it changes the way the Patriots view their personnel in constructing the 53-man roster.